They drew their boats up to the bank and hopped out, taking most of their baggage with them. The air seemed heavier than normal – everyone knew that this was their last stop before they continued to Mordor. As they began to make camp upon the greensward Strider began to talk, telling the rest of the group what to expect.
"We cross the lake at nightfall, hide the boats, and continue on foot. We approach Mordor from the north."
Gimli looked up from where he was filling his pipe. "Oh, yes?" he asked rhetorically. "It's just a simple matter of finding our way through Emyn Muil? An impassable labyrinth of razor-sharp rocks! And after that, it gets even better!" Maggie rolled her eyes. Did he want to make them feel hopeless? "Festering, stinking marshlands far as the eye can see," he finished up.
Sarah leaned down a bit to whisper in Maggie's ear. "He should have been named 'Barnabas'."
Strider gave Gimli a sharp look of warning, though when he spoke, his voice was mild. "That is our road." He clapped Gimli on the shoulder before continuing. "I suggest you take some rest and recover your strength, Master Dwarf."
As Maggie moved off, she heard Gimli splutter indigently, the only words she caught being 'recover' and 'grr'. She gave a small smile.
Sarah walked over to where Legolas and Strider where having a conversation, while Maggie went to where they kept the extra lembas and began to put some in her pack. She was soon joined by Sam, also doing the same thing.
"I was thinking we might be off soon," he said rather apologetically.
Maggie nodded at him. "I was too." She glanced at the far bank. "I don't like the look of those trees."
"Me neither," Sam agreed. "They give me the shivers." He sighed heavily. "I suppose we'll have to go through them tonight."
Before Maggie could reply, they were interrupted by Sarah, who had come up rather quietly behind them.
"Maggie?" she asked.
Maggie glanced up at her. "Almost," she told her friend.
Sarah nodded, and then wandered over to where the blankets were piled and started to fold one into a small bundle.
The two girls worked together in companionable silence. After a while, almost everyone was dozing, smoking, or otherwise busy with their respective tasks. Sarah gave the strap holding the flap of the bag down a sharp tug, and tied it in a neat bow.
"There," she said, and then sighed. Stirred by a sudden impulse most girls have, Maggie threw her arms around her friend.
"I'll miss you," she whispered into Sarah's shoulder.
"Me too," Sarah whispered back. "Now go!"
Breaking the hug, Sarah wandered over to where Pippin and Gimli were talking. Maggie starred at Sarah's retreating back for a second, and then, with a glance around to make sure that no one was watching, she vanished into the trees, leaving her pack leaning against a tree.
After walking for a very short distance, still within hearing of the camp, Maggie sat down with her back to a large tree. She didn't have to wait long. Soon Frodo's voice drifted back from the water's edge, quickly followed by Merry's.
"Where is Maggie?"
"I don't know?"
There was a pause, and then a babble of voices arose. A loud snap of a stick was heard, presumably made by someone heading off in search of her. Sarah's voice suddenly rang out.
Another's, Maggie thought it was Strider's, came quickly after it. "What is it?"
"Shouldn't we leave someone here, in case she comes back?"
"Merry, Pippin!" suddenly Strider gave a loud shout. No answering cries came back. He shouted again, though this time he called different names. "Sam, Frodo!"
This time Sam's voice came in reply. "Strider?"
"I want you both to stay here in case Maggie returns. Sarah, stay close to me."
A few more snaps of twigs faded into the distance as Sarah and Strider went in search of Maggie. Another few moments, and Sarah's face appeared around a bush.
"Maggie!" She threw her arms around her best friend.
"Sarah," Maggie replicated the gesture. They stood there for a moment, and then broke apart. Sarah's hands when to around her neck and undid the clasp of a small neckless she had worn there ever since the movie premier.
"Here, take this," she said, and fastened it around Maggie's neck. It was a small flower, orange in color, on a silver chain. "Come back, please," she said, a tear making its way down her face.
Maggie nodded wordlessly, and then regained her voice. "Don't let him die, Sarah. Keep him alive."
The two friends embraced again, and then Maggie turned and ran towards the nearly deserted camp.
She emerged through the trees, almost crashing, being very noisy for a hobbit.
Frodo started up in surprise as she appeared. "Maggie!" he cried. His eyes widened was she scooped up her pack and tossed in a boat, along with a coil of the rope that Sam had admired.
"Where are you going?" he asked, as she began to push it off the bank.
"To Mordor," was the answer.
"Maggie," he said, in a voice that brooked no argument, "wait a moment."
She turned around slowly.
"Maggie," he continued, this time more softly. "I promised you, that day at the council, that I would go with you. I'm not going to back out on that promise now. You are, as you two say, stuck with me."
Maggie smiled, and then pulled him into a hug. "Thank you," she whispered. It wasn't acting. Part of the plan she and Sarah hand come up with was, while they might be manipulating some circumstances, they would not force any member of the Fellowship to do anything. It was Frodo's choice to come or not, as it was Sam's. Speaking of Sam…
As Frodo turned to go grab his pack, his faithful servant, who had been listening to the exchange, had already located and picked up both his and Frodo's pack.
Frodo sighed. "Sam, we're going to Mordor alone."
"Course you are," Sam told him. "And I'm coming with you."
Maggie gave the first real grin that she had in days as Sam continued.
"I made a promise, Mr. Frodo. A promise: 'Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee', and I don't mean to!"
Frodo now smiled as well. "Well, come along then, Sam, we had better leave."
The three hobbits finished loading up the boats with the various packs and food that they would need, and then pushed off the bank, Frodo sitting in the rear, as he had the most watercraft practice. Sam remained in the middle, clutching the sides.
Maggie forced herself not to look back as they beached the boat and continued up the shore. She did not want to know if Sarah had failed here half of the plan.
Sarah watched her friend vanish into the trees and blinked back tears. They would see each other again, it would just be a couple months. It was February now, and the war ended the twenty-fifth of March, so it was only a month. Only a month. She shook her head. These thoughts were not going to save Boromir. Turning on her heel, she ran up the slope, trying to find the place that he had confronted Frodo in the movie.
She found him by bumping into him, literally. He was wandering around with a small stack of firewood in his arms and an odd look on his face. Sarah was running up the hill, but staring at the ground so that she wouldn't trip. It was futile, though it wasn't a root she tripped on, rather Boromir's foot.
They both toppled over, the wood thankfully missing both their heads, bouncing off a tree as it sailed over them.
Sarah let out a surprised 'oomph' as the full weight of Boromir landed on top of her. After a brief scramble, they managed to right themselves. There was an awkward moment, and then Boromir spoke, breaking the silence.
"Forgive me," he said, "I was not watching where I was going."
Sarah waved a hand, "Its fine, I should have been more careful." She bent down and started to pick up the wood that had gone flying, trying to think of the best way to tell Boromir he was supposed to die, and that she was going to try and save him.
She was startled out of her thoughts by their subject.
"Have you see Maggie?" he asked, rather nonchalantly.
"No," Sarah replied, drawing out the 'o'. "I haven't, not very recently."
Boromir raised his eyebrow, Sarah was a really bad liar.
"Indeed?" he asked.
Sarah, instead of replying, tried to direct the conversation to a safer topic. "Boromir," she began, glancing up at the addressed, and then stopped.
There was a light in his eyes, one that she did not entirely like.
"Where is Maggie?" he demanded again, stepping closer.
"Boromir!" Sarah exclaimed in alarm, taking a step back and bumping into a tree.
Boromir advanced again and grasped her shoulders. "Where is Maggie?! I must find her!" He started to shake her.
"Boromir! Stop! You're scaring me!" Sarah cried, trying to beat him off with her hands. This was not how she and Maggie had envisioned 'Operation Save Boromir' going.
Boromir suddenly let go of Sarah as if he had been electrocuted. "What have I done?" he asked, staring at his hands.
Sarah slumped against the tree, staring at Boromir. Movement from behind him caught her eye, and she gave a shout.
On instinct, Boromir drew his sword and turned, just in time to cut off the head of and advancing Uruk. There were three more bearing down on the two humans.
Parrying a blow from the first, Boromir shouted at Sarah. "Run! Sarah run!" Whirling around, he dispatched the second Uruk with a stab through the stomach. "There's a letter in my bag!" he yelled. Another duck, another swing. "Go to Edoras!" A stab and a slice, an orc head rolled on the forest floor.
Now there was only one left. As Boromir yelled for her to run for a third time, Sarah yelled back at him though her tears, doing her best to keep him alive. "Boromir, watch out for arrows, you're shot! Please!"
With a nod, Boromir moved into engage the final Uruk. As he did so, five more appeared over the ridge.
"Run!" came the call one more time.
Through blinding tears, Sarah stumbled away down the hill.
In a surprisingly short time she reached the camp. It was deserted. There were two boats, and three of the packs were missing. As she looked out across the lake, she could see the small shape of an elven boat about halfway across the blue expanse of water.
Glancing around, she located Boromir's pack lying propped up on his shield. Kneeling down beside it, she began to poke around, finally coming up with a thick piece of parchment. Written on it in bold letters was the word 'Eowyn'.